Meredith Morris-Babb, director of the University Press of Florida, officially began her term as president of the Association of American University Presses (AAUP) at the association’s annual meeting on June 20 in Denver, Col. Last year, Babb served as president elect alongside Barbara Kline Pope, director of National Academies Press.
Established in 1937, the AAUP supports the endeavors of nearly 140 university presses, who strive to advance knowledge by publishing works of scholarly, intellectual and creative merit. As president, Babb will lead the AAUP in its mission to promote the value of university presses.
That value, according to Babb, is changing. “No longer does our worth depend entirely on sales nor does our value diminish if our sales do,” she said in her inaugural speech. “Our value is much more than that bottom line—it is our unique skill set, our outreach and our commitment to excellence that keeps us aligned with our institutions’ missions.”
“That change in direction, it seems, has been the hardest kernel to accept,” Babb acknowledged, but made clear that presses have succeeded, comparing them to Darwin’s finches. “We are adaptations—evolving—but fundamentally, we remain finches.” She reiterated the strength of university presses, saying, “We have innovation, collaboration, reciprocity, generosity and creativity.”
For nine years, Babb has been director of the University Press of Florida, the official publisher for the State University System of Florida. “Meredith has always been a director with keen foresight and an entrepreneurial bent,” says Dennis Lloyd, director of the University of Wisconsin Press and former deputy director at UPF. “Her vision for the AAUP is energizing, not just for other university presses, but for everyone involved in academic publishing today.”
Prior to being director, Babb was editor-in chief for eight years. During her time at UPF, Babb has led the press to adapt as part of the university ecosystem, fostering the relationship between UPF and the 11 universities it represents. In a recent collaboration with the University of Florida, UPF launched the digital book series Gatorbytes to tell the most compelling stories behind the best research at UF.
“Collaborating is what university presses do; adaptation is our strength and resilience,” Babb explained. “So let me be clear: We are not in crisis, we are adapting.”
To read the complete transcript of Babb’s inaugural address as AAUP president, visit: http://www.aaupnet.org/about-aaup/board-of-directors/presidential-talks-archive/1329-babb-2015 .